You can’t feel it. You can’t see it—until it’s too late. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common form of diabetic eye disease, is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 20–74. It occurs when diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy affects 7.7 million Americans, and that number is projected to increase to more than 14.6 million people by 2030. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk for diabetic eye disease. Once vision is lost, it often cannot be restored. People with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year to help protect their sight.
Keeping diabetes in control is key to slowing the progression of vision complications like diabetic retinopathy. There are important steps people with diabetes can take to keep their health on TRACK:
▪ Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.
▪ Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
▪ Add physical activity to your daily routine.
▪ Control your ABC’s—A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
▪ Kick the smoking habit.
Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can reduce a person’s risk for severe vision loss from diabetic eye disease by 95 percent. Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), says, “Only about half of all people with diabetes get an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam, which is essential for detecting diabetic eye disease early, when it is most treatable. Newer and better treatments are available for the first time in decades, making early detection even more important.”